High-Intensity Slow Motion Resistance Training is Mindfulness Meditation

One major benefit of exercising is its benefit on the mind. Many studies point to exercise assisting with mood and cognitive benefits.

Statistics aside, at EverStrongSF and Live Oak Strength & Nutrition, we can see the effect on the mind first hand every day when people come to train. People come in with many things on their mind…parking, work, travel, or some frazzled interaction with another person.

When people come in, we reset them and get them focused on their body.

“How did you feel after the last workout?”

“How do you feel right now?”

“Are you ready to train? Let’s get in the zone.”

It’s a body check in and we ask them to feel it and recognize it. Then, we get them into the zone. They know it’s an intense focusing session and often make the switch with ease.

Once in the training, people either watch the output on the screen to focus on ft/lbs of torque they are generating on the ARX or close their eyes and listen for the weights to gently touch the stack as they keep continual tension and breathe. They focus intensely on their form and we give quiet one word clues, “slower”, “hold”, “turn”, “breathe”.

Doing resistance training where you focus on the specific movement and the muscles involved is a large departure from the bouncing around from thing to thing in the outside world. When combined with the deep breathing to prevent blood pressure buildup, provide the muscles with oxygen to convert energy into contractions and to hyper-oxygenate the blood, it is a huge reset.

Most people breathe shallow most of the day. We get people deep breathing for 15-20 minutes.

When trainees leave, their muscles emptied and tingling. Their mind is reset from having been singularly focused and concentrated on one thing for 20 minutes. 

This training is a guided body meditation where the minimal effective dose of exercise is combined at the same time.  Learn more about it here: www.everstrongsf.com

Why is strength training so critical?

We need muscle to move. It’s where energy in the body is stored. It gives us energy to move through our lives to create what we need be it caring for others or caring for ourselves. That critical energy is needed to work and live well for as long as we can. We need energy. In the current political climate, I personally want a lot of energy.

As we age, our bodies naturally lose around 1/4 to 1/2 pound of muscle per year. That mass is often replaced by fat. This cascade leads to much less muscle and strength which ultimately leaves people feeling old and less energetic. Less muscle means less energy and less ability. Muscles also cushion our bodies in the event of a fall or collision. In the case of an injury, you will recover faster with more muscle.

Often, pneumonia is the end for an older person because they stop moving and lose what muscle they have left. My grandmother died this way. She was diagnosed with “Failure to thrive”. She couldn’t get up and soon passed. She was rail thin. A wonderful woman, but that lack of muscle combined with the illness ended her too soon.

We need muscle. Strength training makes muscle.

Bones also become more brittle as we age. I’m sure you’ve heard of an older person taking a fall, breaking a bone and having either a very long recovery or no recovery. Please know that bearing load in strength training also increases the load on bones. They respond and become more dense. That means that strength training increases bone density.

How can we ignore strength training? Perhaps it’s because the way strength training is currently portrayed is at fault. Big muscles and six pack abs are all over the media with huge supplement advertising. It’s aimed right at the people in their 20’s. If you are in your 40’s or 50’s, do you really want to go to an extremely image conscious environment to train knowing that people are watching and judging you? If you are unsure of what to do with weights, then what? I know people who want to train but are very uncomfortable in gyms and end up on the cardio machine because it feels safest. You can get some benefit there but it’s often long and unsatisfying.

You can imitate others in the gym who look like they know what they are doing, but that’s often a guess or a shot in the dark. Most people with weights use momentum. That means they swing and bounce weights which is not only very risky on the joints but it’s moving right through the hardest and most beneficial parts of the movement. This is often done because people choose too heavy of a weight. The whole thing is highly ineffective and risky. Why not use the body as it’s designed?

The key to strength training is stimulating the muscle fibers deeply so that they are taxed beyond what they normally can handle. Then with enough rest but not too much, they can repair themselves and come back stronger. They need rest time in between those taxing sessions so that there is ample time for the tissue to repair itself. Think of how long a cut takes to repair on skin. The more tissue involved, the longer the healing time required. You don’t tug on the cut until it’s healed. The key to strength training is not bouncing heavy weights at the height of joint extension. That’s the key to weakening joints and putting you on a training break for weeks at a time. If you are in your 20’s you can do this…for a little while.

Also, it’s extremely important to know what your exercise is doing to your body. Do you know if you are getting stronger? Are you losing body fat? Measuring how an exercise affects you and how much rest helps you either go up or down in strength is the difference between guessing and shooting in the dark and creating consistent increases in health. It’s hard to do for yourself. Very, very few people can do this consistently.

With SuperSlow® strength training, slow and targeted movements with proper form are executed with instruction, guidance, and measurement. A trainer is guiding you through the movements so that you breathe and relax the muscles you aren’t training. You learn to move slowly, ten seconds up and ten seconds down, through the hardest parts of the movement. There is no momentum; it’s your muscles slowly moving the weight. Ultimately, you are learning to bring your muscles to failure. Failure in this case is success. Most people stop well before this point. That’s why your trainer is guiding you. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s just one set per movement. It’s short, intense and effective. Overall, it’s about  20 minutes. Most people need a week to recover once they learn how to not hide from the failure.

This is a strength training protocol. It’s not a big muscle training protocol. For many who want large muscles, more frequent training sessions are required. This is called high volume training and you can still do high volume training in addition to strength training. Some do. They are not exclusive. However, take care with high volume training. It’s also a lot of volume on the joints.

Some people who are prone to big muscles, do get bigger muscles with SuperSlow® training. The process happens over months. In the majority of people, muscle composition changes to more dense and firm due to the addition of new muscle fibers and fat reduction due to increased metabolism. This training can reenforce other healthy habits like choosing healthier foods. Regardless of muscle size, people report feeling stronger, looking better, and having more energy.

I can tell you more here.

Safe and Effective Strength Training

I’ve been training in the SuperSlow® High-Intensity Training (HIT) method now for about a year. I’m definitely stronger, more toned and more trim. This method involves one 20 minute session once a week, in total, and there are no “aerobics” involved from an exercise standpoint. Roughly speaking, it focuses on making a muscle group get to 100% failure once (repeating across other muscle groups) and then resting a full week before doing it again. The idea is that’s all you have to do. Other exercise can just be added in for fun or sport specific applications. For me, this has been perfect because I have leadership roles in very intense startups where personal time can get routed to work.

I first read about this method in Tim Ferriss’ book, the Four Hour Body. That book led me to Doug McGuff’s book, Body by Science. (both non-affiliate links). After reading about the results, I had to see if it would really work.

In my experience with it, it’s the best exercise program that I have found. Here’s why.

  1. I’ve gotten stronger consistently.
  2. I’ve sustained zero injuries.
  3. I’ve lost visible fat and visceral fat.
  4. I’ve gained muscle.
  5. I’ve been consistent with it because it’s so easy to maintain schedule-wise.
  6. My bone density has increased.
  7. I worry less about getting workouts in.
  8. It’s only 20 minutes once a week.
  9. Unexpectedly, I’m more flexible.
  10. Sometimes, a short massage is included. (That’s awesome.)

I liked it so much that I’m training people with this method. If you want to train with me, contact me.

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Fear

I was meditating when my wife and daughter began to argue. Because of that state of mind, I didn’t get up and get angry with my daughter for arguing with her mother. Instead, I just felt the feeling of anger and explored how it felt physically. Normally, anger would take over. It was pretty good timing of meditation and a family argument.

Once I accepted that anger was there and let it be a temporary resident, I realized that the physical feeling felt similar to how fear felt for me. It’s a pressure in the chest, a buzzing that feels like way too much stress. Remembering things that cause fear made me also realize that each feeling felt very similar physically except one may be more intense than the other.

Then I realized how many times those feelings were felt during the day and in how many different situations.

  • In the cross-walk when a driver sees you at the last moment.
  • When you have to present your business idea or plan for approval.
  • When you think of some financial catastrophe or when you actually have one.
  • When your bank balance is negative because you and your spouse were out of sync.
  • When you can’t pay your bills.
  • When you think your boss doesn’t like you.
  • When you encounter a bear on a hike.
  • When you watch a scary movie.
  • When you are afraid of being judged by others.
  • When you have a thought about someone you love dying.
  • When you think about America going haywire over the elections.
  • When you walk late at night and the street lights are out.
  • When you consider the moment when you die.
  • When you are surfing at Ocean Beach in San Francisco and the current is insane in all different directions and your leash breaks and the waves are like 10 ton staircases that won’t let you come up for air.

Those feelings. Physically, they feel very similar. The small tingle of fear that your wallet is in the hands of a stranger and the full blown hot fear of a PET scan for cancer metastises. If you watch what the fear really feels like and see that how you think about it is what’s really different (apart from the intensity), then you will see that fear is really quite abundant.

When you separate the mental thought and the physical feeling (which you can do by doing something very hard…accepting the fear), that physical feeling feels like energy. Now, energy you can use to move. Remember that. Also, you can see the thought as separate because it can be separated. When you can observe the thought and feel that the fear is really just energy, then interesting things can happen.

You can think. You can decide how you want to respond. Granted, if a bear is chasing you react as you need to save yourself. But in the case where you are driving in your commute and feeling fear about something coming up like a layoff or an end of a contract, that’s a very good time to feel that fear, accept it and let it be there.

That’s where the blinder on the mind can come off and you can give your attention to what action to take. It’s really powerful.

Fear really is energy, just like anger is and like joy is. Fear is all around us all day long. There is a lot we can be afraid of. But, when you think about fear as energy and that it will be in almost every step you take, it seems that it’s more like the air you breathe or the ground you walk on.

When you realize that fear is really like air you can breathe, the world suddenly looks different. Whatever path you want to explore can feel open and possible. This is really incredible, and it can happen by doing the opposite of what you might expect.

The natural tendency is to avoid the fear. Feeling the fear and letting take full residence in the body can be massively overwhelming. It can be too intense. But allow it. Feel the whole thing and the world will look very, very different. It can be especially liberating if you have been afraid to acknowledge what you want out of life.

It doesn’t have to be so stressful

Do you get a sense that our world is just go, go and go all the time? That there’s always a rush to the next thing? Do you see people driving up on pedestrians and bicyclists cursing at cars? It seems that a delay of a couple of seconds is enough to trigger people into anger. Just a couple of seconds.

The other day as I drove the carpool to school, we all watched a car attempting to park. It could have been someone who was parking a friend’s car or someone who just is a very slow and cautious driver. It’s pretty common to run into slow drivers in the city. It was easily a 30 second delay for about 6 cars. It was mildly irritating.

We watched a man get out of his car, walk over to the driver and punch the window. He tried to smash the driver side window with his fist. He really hit it hard. Given how muscular he was, it was a very good thing that the window held and that the parker wasn’t assaulted. He was so angry at this driving offense that he actually felt the need to destroy property and be physically aggressive with another human being.

On a bike commute through the city, I watched a bicyclist pull into the crosswalk at a busy intersection on Market at about 3rd in SF. He was blocking about 60 pedestrians and a couple of them told him he was blocking the way. He went immediately to cursing at the pedestrians and an argument ensued.

Have you seen people getting frustrated with strangers? If you commute to work or otherwise go out in the morning, you probably see it everyday.

I would venture that these minds have something very common and very human repeating and looping in a mental swirling current. These people are not getting their needs met. These people are going to something they are not happy about going to and just want to get the commute over with. They may want to just get the day over with. If they were thrilled and happy to be going, they might be looking forward to their destination. It’s not so monumental to say that people don’t like commutes and/or the jobs they have.

What is monumental is that when you are focused on getting something over with, you are not really there. You are not experiencing life. If you have an entire string of events that you just want to get over with in a day like…

  • get the kids to school
  • get through the commute
  • get through the morning meeting (how to dial in? where’s the number?)
  • get through the presentation
  • avoid some people in the office or site
  • get through project status meetings
  • get through another meeting
  • get through a chat with the boss
  • get through the commute home
  • get through walking the dog
  • get through making dinner for the kids
  • get through unloading the dishwasher
  • get through getting the kids to just get the damn room cleaned
  • and finally get to your own time (which you may be to tired to get to)

If you approach a day like this…just to get it over with, then frustration will grow and grow over time.

A common theme to handle this problem is to dream of riches or dream of starting a business to free yourself from living a life you don’t want. Or, moving somewhere else where life feels less stressed. However, I should let you know, I used to move every couple of years. I found that where ever I was, I brought myself and my habits with me.

There’s a song performed by Johnny Cash called “A Satisfied Mind“. The lyrics are telling.

How many times have
You heard someone say
If I had his money
I could do things my way

But little they know
That it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten
With a satisfied mind

No matter where you are, your thinking habits will prevail. Thus, a powerful way to deal with your thinking habits is to learn to meditate. Meditation will help you find what you are resisting. Resistance ultimately causes stress and mental suffering. That ultimately leads to physical ailments. Resistance often causes inaction through avoidance which drives guilt and erodes self-confidence.

When you learn what you resist, you can accept whatever that is. When you accept that, you are acknowledging that there is something you need to work on. From there, you will likely find your true inner feelings about it. That then leads to an authentic action that enlivens and strengthens you.

Acceptance applies to very big things in life and very small things. Apply it to all. In one example, I was asked to work a long way away from where I live. At first, I thought I must do it to provide for my family, but I felt really sad about it. I meditated on it and discovered why it made me sad.  I don’t want to be away from my home and family for 16 hours a day. At a deep level, I’m a protector of my family. There’s crazy stuff that happens in cities. I need to be relatively close by. Also, I want to have an interesting life filled with friends, music and movement. So, I said no. It was hard to say no to. Very hard. It was scary. It was a difficult conversation for me to do. However, I knew not being available for my family and not having a bit of time to be me was a worse risk.

In a small case, I used to hate unloading the dishwasher. I just wanted to get it over with. If I found it already unloaded, I was relieved. If I found it full, I was angry at the kids or my wife for not unloading it. When I realized how much I was resisting a necessary daily task, I accepted it. Then, I began to just unload each piece like a meditation. It became an opportunity to be completely present and aware. I moved from resentment to thankfulness that I could afford a dishwashing machine. I became really appreciative that we have good plates and bowls and cutlery. I was grateful I could pay for them and eat from clean surfaces. This may seem absurd, but it’s very powerful. This kind of appreciation carries over to walking down the street and noticing the flowers someone has planted or the feel of a sweet breeze. It carries over to looking at your children and how thankful that we have made it this far without calamity. It makes the world feel wonderful.

On that list above, there is a lot to resist. You have your own list of resistance. You might resist and want to avoid a meeting coming up. You might think it won’t go well because of this or that. If you step back and accept that you must do the meeting, you may see that you really feel that there wasn’t enough time to prepare or you need to do more work. Accept that and then you’ll think of what parts you need to research more. Acceptance opens to the door to your truths that are blocked by the blinders that resistance puts over your mind.

That presentation is an opportunity to be alive and think on your feet and listen and learn and try to reach an agreement or to know that you tried. If you think about this, it’s really an opportunity to live with others and experience life even though you might think it mundane. If you think it mundane, look into that. You might be in the wrong field of work. It is easier to ignore that but I guarantee you that life really becomes much more interesting when you start moving in directions you want to go.

Ultimately, we all have more than enough time. You will see this if you can catch the resistance and accept it. This is when you can step into something and experience it. It leads to flow. It is living in the moment with an awareness of what you are thinking and feeling. Multi-tasking makes us think we don’t have enough time. I’ve got to do this and I’ve go to do that. It numbs us and ties us up in the little tiny to-dos that make us feel productive but not really see what we did. Accept what is happening and instead uni-task, we have all the time we need.

If you are interested to learn more about meditation, try the Headspace or Calm apps. I’ve used Headspace for over a year. The meditations are guided and short…10-15 minutes. So you don’t have to do anything except listen and follow along. I have found more powerful effects come from longer sessions. For those, I’d recommend finding a Mind Body Stress Reduction (MBSR) course near you. This course has led to many professing that their lives are forever changed and that they feel like they are really living. Doesn’t that sound interesting?